UI sues drugmaker alleging patent infringement

BY SCOTT RAYNOR | JULY 02, 2009 7:20 AM

The UI is involved in a legal dispute with the makers of Humira, for allegedly intentionally violating two UI patented medical tools.

The same company — Abbott Labs — lost a patent lawsuit Monday, when an eastern Texas federal jury found Abbott Labs violated a New York University patent. This patent was developed at NYU and given exclusive license to Centocor Ortho Biotech inc., a subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson.
The judge awarded Centacor Ortho Biotech inc. a $1.67 billion reward.

“It is possibly the biggest patent-damages case ever,” said Des Moines patent attorney Kurt Van Thomme, who specializes in biotechnology patents.

UI microbiology Professor Mark Stinski invented the patented tools in 1992 and 1995. The patents allegedly violated by the Illinois-based corporation Abbott Labs are used in the arthritis drug Humira.

Last year’s international sales of the drug totaled $4.5 billion, more than 60 percent from the previous year, according to a press release from Abbott Labs.

According to court documents, the patents in question — commonly known as the CMV Promoter — is a “fundamental tool” used frequently in the biotech industry.

The suit comes almost seven years after Humira was approved by the FDA, in December 2002.
“There is any number of reasons [for the delay],” Van Thomme said.

The UI could have approached Abbott Labs to pay for licensing but could no longer wait for it to comply, or the UI may have simply not realized the patents were in violation initially, he said.

“Abbott Labs infringes the Iowa Patents when … it and its affiliates use the inventions covered by the claims of the Iowa Patents to manufacture drugs such as its multibillion-dollar blockbuster drug Humira,” UI officials said in the lawsuit.

The patents are held by the UI Research Foundation, an independent but UI-affiliated organization that owns and manages inventions and patents originating from UI researchers.

Because of the legal proceedings, UI spokesman Tom Moore declined to comment.

“Abbott believes that Humira does not infringe these patents and that they are invalid,” said Abbott Labs spokeswoman Adelle Infante. “We will vigorously defend against the allegations.”

Abbott is currently developing plans to appeal the decision in Texas, when the jury found not only did Abbott Labs violate the patent but did so intentionally.

“It is possibly the biggest patent damages case ever,” Van Thomme said.

But despite the severity of the legal battle with the UI, he says, it isn’t likely to go to court.

“About 97 percent of patent cases don’t ever go to trial,” he said.

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